Ramiro Ibañez in Surtopia – 2017

Surtopia 2017

With apologies for the late notice, this is a shout out to anyone in the Madrid area: today and tomorrow Ramiro Ibañez will be putting in a shift as sommelier in the little corner of Madrid that most resembles his hometown Sanlucar, Surtopia.

Aside from the chance to meet the man himself, a special menu has been arranged to be paired with five wines brought by Ramiro and all for the modest sum of €60.

Last year’s edition was top drawer – see posts here, here and here – and although I have no idea if the plan is similar it is a great opportunity, or excuse, to get out and have some interesting wines. So see you there later!

Narciso

A really solid sherry list this, from Narciso Brasserie, a relatively new opening in my neighbourhood. A lot of bases covered in terms of categories and in terms of styles within each category. The other place is represented by the Fino Capataz and Amontillado Carlos VII by Alvear and the Perez Barquero Amontillado and amongst the sweet wines they also had Emilin by Lustau, on what was a pretty impressive wine list overall.

Definitely one for my growing list in wine terms – and the steak tartare was very acceptable too.

La Matilde

Second stop in Zaragoza and another must for visiting wine lovers – La Matilde – a classic, old school restaurant where you can eat fantastically well just metres aboce one of the finest, busiest, fullest wine cellars I have seen anywhere and, if you are lucky, drink some absolutely unique wines. 

The sommelier is not only the absolute boss in wine terms but also a true gent. You can see one of the highlights above and I will get back to that when I can but there was also a cracking old Emilin moscatel served with a twist of orange and your man had plenty in reserve. 

Absinthium


Absinthium is an obligatory destination for any sherry lover – or wine lover for that matter – in Zaragoza, and was in fact my first stop on arrival.

Top class – a really big selection and some cracking, classic wines on the shelves and in the fridge and the sommelier, Jesus Solanas, really really knows his business. Not just sherry on offer – some really nice, elegant wines from around the world available by the glass, and as the name suggests it is also one of the few places you can enjoy absinthe – even out of the tap as per the old school. An absinthe seemed a bit strong as a pre prandial snifter so I stuck to the healing wine and it was terrific – right in its prime.

Nerua 

I am discovering that Bilbao had a fair few attractions for a wine fan and one of them, if you love the wines of el marco, is Nerua.

A temple to good taste, with a Michelin Star and a star chef, it also has a fantastic range of top sherries. In fact the list is, in my view, just about perfect:

  • a “protomanzanilla” in the form of La Bota de Florpower 53 ,
  • manzanillas that are fresh and aromatic (Deliciosa, La Bota 32 and 55, La Guita en Rama, even the Manzanilla de Añada 2012 2/11 by Callejuela),
  • three outstanding finos with a lot of character (Fino Perdido, La Panesa and the mighty Fino La Barajuela 2013),
  • three top class manzanilla pasadas (La Goya XL, La Bota 60, and la Maruja),
  • amontillados from the very top drawer (Piñero, La Sacristia AB, el Amontillado Olvidado, the Tradicion VORS and La Bota 49 (would love to hear what they pair that with)),
  • a class Palo Cortado (Viejo CP by Valdespino),
  • the cream of olorosos (Sacristia AB, Villapanes, and el Cerro), and
  • the actual cream by Piñero.

It is a remarkable list – excellent all round and some top wines. There isn’t a single wine on there I wouldn’t order, some of them are unique and impossible to find and I am struggling to spot any flaw in the range (there may have been some pedro ximenez on a separate section of the wine list that I did not look at – apologies – but maybe if you wee very picky you could beg for some pedro ximenez options up and down the card).

And there are many other reasons to visit too – I couldn’t stop long yesterday but long enough to try three absolutely beautiful tapitas and enjoy a really friendly welcome.  I will surely be back and I hope it is soon.

Surtopiando 

We had a fantastic dinner last night at Surtopia – the cooking and combinations just get better and better, the service is top class and super friendly and the wine available, well, it is a sherry lover’s dream. More particularly a manzanilla lover’s dream.

Last night I honoured my host by sticking to the Sanlucar wines, and three absolute belters they were too: the La Gitana en rama (the only place I know of in Madrid that has it, and in a fancy new bottle too), the Pastora Manzanilla Pasada (an absolute gem, with a lovely trace of apple upfront – whether green, golden or baked); and the Maruja Manzanilla Pasada, which was an absolute beast – so good I stuck with it for the rest of the meal.

I was struck once again by how fantastically well these wines accompanied the cooking: dry, saline, and structured. Probably not an accident in this case, but even so it was striking and made me wonder once again why you don’t see more of these kinds of wines being used as pairings.

In any event, this is not a problem at Surtopia – I tend to beat my own path but they have sherry pairings for their 6 or 9 course menus for a paltry sum. If you are curious about trying sherries there are still very few places better.

Encrucijado 2014 

I had another glass of this at the bar of Angelita and it left me in two minds.

On the one hand, I feel privileged to have had the chance to try another glass. It confirmed my growing impression that it is a wine of some stature and getting better: an aromatic butterscotch and hazelnut on the nose, zingy acidity and more butterscotch on the palate and a sapid finish.

On the other hand, it depressed me to find that such a wine hadn’t been exhausted long ago. I wrote about this wine being available by the glass in Angelita on March 15, and even given the diminute reach of this below average blog it is shocking to me that the half dozen or so readers didn’t tool up there and drain the swamp in the nearly two months since. You hear a lot about the “sherry revolution” these days and you can’t chuck a half brick in Madrid without inadvertently vandalizing a so-called “sherry temple”, but here we have a bona fide cathedral to wine and on its list they have one of the most exciting wines being made, in tiny amounts, in the sherry triangle, and in two months they haven’t sold out. There really can only be two causes: people are not going to Angelita as much as they should (a scandal itself in my view) and those that do are not trying the right wine. It is enough to make a fella weep.

Let’s be clear: if you love wine, you should be supporting places like Angelita and the other fantastic bars and restaurants that Madrid is blessed with; and if you want to understand anything about the “sherry revolution” that is possible, you should be trying wines like Encrucijado.